PORTLAND, OR- Whether it be a young prospect, an old schoolmaster, or a middle aged project, the process of finding, buying and then training your new horse is always exciting. And in hopes, rewarding. It may be a little slower and complex process than we imagine - even though we try to prepare ourselves as best we can. Extremely thorough vet checks, lots of questions asked, hours of studying the sales videos and background history is in order. In most cases the horse is relocated to a different barn (if not different state or county), and has new people, and a new environment to cope with. As many good horsemen say it takes about a full year to have a good idea of what you've got in your new partner. Despite all the precautions, buying a new horse is always a little bit of a gamble. X rays and flexions are rarely perfect, and if they are, those are the horses that end up breaking somehow anyways. Sellers can make it difficult, heavily marketing flashy bloodlines, along with flashy prices. And of course, we always hope the purchase process is one that is done with integrity and transparency but unfortunately this is not always the case.
With many factors that can make purchasing a new horse overwhelming, my general rule is this: A great mind, and good confirmation are two simple things you can look for to set yourself up for success(aside from a reasonable vet check). A mind of gold - one that is trainable, inquisitive, expressive and active is one that can take the horse far beyond what just confirmation and bloodlines alone can. That being said a horse with good basic confirmation- especially in the legs and hind end will not only help the horse find a balanced way of going through the levels, but also help prolong soundness and help avoid things like joint issues, back soreness etc (all outside variables aside, such as bad footing, or training).
The new horse owners that take the time to discover and mend all the quirks, disclosed or hidden at the time of purchase, as well as discover and mend any holes in training, are the ones that I feel get the most out of the experience of horse ownership. There is so much to be gained- especially for the amateur rider. So much is to be gained in making sure the amateur owner is comfortable and educated in putting her horse in the trailer, properly grooming and clipping the horse, or simply lunging the horse. All in the absence of the trainer! Yes, it is not just about the riding!
Many of the scenarios that I see in horse - trainer- owner relationships is slightly skewed For example a new horse that was bought because the trainer fell in love and may not necessarily be a good fit for the owner, or the horse is taught to only respect the trainer and not the owner, the trainer has too much control over the horse, not letting the owner become educated.
Despite the skill level of the owner, the trainer is responsible to educate both horse and owner in such a way to make them as successful as possible with one another, not just under the trainer's supervision. Yes there are instances where the horse needs time to develop under the trainer's hand but it should be done in a way that is completely transparent to the owner and in such a way that offers an educating experience for the owner.
Be safe, and happy horse shopping! -Mercedes